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IES Grant

Title: School Improvement in Indiana: Exploring Differences among Charter, Voucher Private, and Traditional Public High Schools
Center: NCER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Berends, Mark Awardee: University of Notre Dame
Program: Improving Education Systems      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (07/01/2019 – 06/30/2021) Award Amount: $540,356
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A190340

Co-Principal Investigators: Waddington, Joseph; Ferrare, Joseph; Zimmer, Ron

Purpose: Most school choice research to date has examined impacts on K-8 students' test scores and non-cognitive outcomes, with comparatively little research on longer-term attainment outcomes such as high school graduation and college enrollment. This project will examine how school choice in different sectors (charter, Catholic, other private, and public schools) is related to student outcomes in high school and postsecondary education. The project will also explore whether attending different types of choice schools is associated with different outcomes for different types of students. The project team will address four questions.

  • What is the association between attending a charter high school or using an Indiana Choice Scholarship Program voucher to attend a private high school and student outcomes in high school, including end-of-course assessments, retention, dropping out, and graduation, and beyond including, two- or four-year college enrollment?
  • Do charter school and voucher impacts vary between groups of students such that there are changes racial/ethnic and socioeconomic gaps in student outcomes?
  • Does school context (for example, demographic composition, attendance, suspension/expulsion rates, peer quality) moderate the charter school and voucher impacts on student outcomes?
  • Does high school course-taking mediate the voucher and charter school impacts on student outcomes?

Project Activities: The researchers will use a matching approach with covariate adjustment and conduct robustness checks to examine the impact of school choice on a student's high school end-of-course assessments, graduation rates, dropout, suspensions, and college enrollment in charter and voucher private high schools. They will also identify the extent to which school choice policies in the state reduce or exacerbate socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequality in education outcomes. They will further examine how school context moderates and how student course-taking patterns mediate the effects of these policies.

Products: The research team will produce preliminary evidence of how various school choice policies are related to student high school and postsecondary outcomes, as well as mediators and moderators of these relationships. The researchers will also produce peer-reviewed publications and disseminate results to policymakers.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research team will use longitudinal, student-level records for public, charter, Catholic, and private schools from a midwestern state.

Sample: The sample comprises all public and private students entering high school (grade 9) in the state from the 2011-12 school year though the 2015-16 school year (five cohorts).

Intervention: The malleable factors for this project are attending a charter high school or using a voucher to attend a private school.

Research Design and Methods: Using state administrative data, the researchers will construct datasets for four treatment samples of students: (1) who transitioned from a traditional public school in eighth grade to a charter high school, (2) who transitioned from a traditional public school in eighth grade to a private high school after receiving a voucher, (3) who transitioned from a charter school in eighth grade to a charter high school, or (4) who transitioned from a private school in eighth grade to a private high school after receiving a voucher. Using a methodological approach that builds upon other nonexperimental evaluations of charter schools, the researchers will create matched samples of charter and traditional public high school students along with matched samples of voucher private and traditional public high school students. They will estimate separate models for each sample of treatment and comparison students, in addition to a combined model.

Control Condition: Although this is an exploration study, the comparison students are peers who attended a public high school with the same race/ethnicity, sex, free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) recipient status, and prior achievement from the same baseline cohort (same school and year in eighth grade).

Key Measures: Student outcomes include high school end-of-course assessments in Algebra and English/Language Arts, graduation rates, dropout, and college enrollment. Other measures include student background and school context, such as academic composition, demographic composition, attendance, suspensions/expulsions, and student course-taking.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will use statistical models that control for differences between "matching cells" along with baseline (eighth grade) student characteristics. They will create models with Ordinary Least Squares regression for continuous outcomes such as end of course assessment scores and logistic or probit regression for dichotomous outcomes such as graduation, dropout, and college enrollment. The researchers will estimate separate models for each outcome and adapt the models to examine the effects of mediators and moderators.